Case Study in Grassroots Video Messaging

A well-positioned advocacy video can be highly effective in helping build public support for your cause. Video messaging provides a creative and visual platform to examine an issue and communicate your organization’s solution to a problem. It is a dynamic mode of communication that can educate, motivate and mobilize audiences. The challenge, however, is to package your video message in a way that enables you to accomplish this lofty goal.

The Case of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance

To provide an example of what goes into producing a well-positioned advocacy video, Tonal Vision shares a few strategies that we employed when we produced Better Transportation for a Better Region, an advocacy video for the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance (CMTA). The video educates viewers—state legislators, local Baltimore leaders and Baltimore residents—on the importance of adequately funding public transit and for designing streets for all users, not just cars.

Here are some of the strategies that went into crafting CMTA’s video message:

We Worked with CMTA to Carefully Define Their Message

A good video is resource intensive. Before beginning production, it's important to agree on a vision for what the video should accomplish, define the audience, and decide on what action(s) you want them to take. CMTA identified several state and local transit-related initiatives they wanted to support, and we designed the video to clearly address these.

A solid vision will help not only in designing the initial script, but is useful during production as you face the inevitable decisions on video style and duration, choice of content, and getting input and buy-in vs. finishing quickly.

The Plight of the Baltimore Commuter Provided a Human Face for the Issue


Our first task was to determine how to tell CMTA’s story in a way that helped viewers empathize with the problem. Riders of Baltimore’s public rail and buses need to rely on an unreliable transit system to get to work, access essential shopping outlets such as the grocery store, and transportation to entertainment venues. Young people can spend years in school, but this time is wasted if they don't have transportation to jobs. People who can afford cars are trapped in them in stalled traffic during long commutes. Negative ripple effects of underfunded transit are felt throughout the region.

With information provided by CMTA, Tonal Vision was able to tell a compelling story supported by data on Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA) reliability record, regional growth statistics impacted by public transportation, and interviews with regional experts. Our live interviews provided highly convincing content, as they included transportation specialists, employment experts, and community leaders who tackled the problem from their own perspectives. These interviews allowed us to sell the broad benefits of good public transit for the overall economy, for area employers, for property values and for overall quality of life. This approach to storytelling enabled us to make the video relevant for everyone—state legislators, local officials and area residents.

CMTA Offered a Sound, Research-Based Solution


Having thoroughly studied public transit issues in the Baltimore region, CMTA was able to provide Tonal Vision with a wealth of information on the factors that influence transit. Their solution was housed in an information-packed website, Howstheride.org, which explains CMTA’s Five Basics of a Reliable Transit System. For our purposes, the website provided info graphics, illustrations and charts that supported the overall message. We used their colors, fonts and graphics as much as possible to help the video feel like an organic part of their advocacy campaign.

We Painted a Vivid Picture

Imagery is an essential part of packaging your message for viewers, and high quality graphics and video are invaluable components. In producing CMTA’s video, we integrated footage of local commuters, CMTA statistics, and visual representations of intangible information. such as the economic and communal impact of better transit. This put CMTA’s message in visual context, and using actual footage from the Baltimore region added authenticity and credibility to the message.

We Outlined Tangible and Feasible Call-to-Actions


To craft an effective advocacy video, explaining the problem or issue is only half the battle. The other half is telling viewers exactly what you want from them. The effectiveness of your campaign hinges on your ability to give viewers something tangible and feasible to act on—a well-defined call-to-action (CTA).

In the case of Better Transportation for a Better Region, CMTA’s objective was two-fold: (1) bring about passage of a Maryland state bill that provided a plan and funding to improve Maryland’s Transit System; and (2) garner support of the Baltimore City Complete Streets ordinance that would improve the safety and usability of the city’s streets. To support these objectives, CMTA outlined three specific CTAs: one for Maryland state legislators, one for Baltimore’s local officials, and one for Baltimore area residents.

In Conclusion


Video messaging can seem daunting on the surface. However, crafting an effective advocacy video isn’t as difficult as you may think. Any organization can energize and mobilize audiences via video by doing the following:

  • Be detailed in your storytelling. Dissect the facts and thoroughly tell viewers your constituents’ story.
  • Capitalize on the visual appeal of video. Integrate eye-catching and engaging imagery, graphics and footage in your video production.
  • Offer a viable solution. Tell viewers how you plan to resolve the problem. Make it clear, make it concise and make it convincing. In doing so, tell viewers specifically how your organization can institute change.
  • Communicate the benefits. Dive into the benefits of your organization’s solution. This is your chance to build confidence in viewers. If they believe in your solution and trust in your organization, they are more likely to act.
  • End with a specific call to action. The more specific you are, the easier it is for viewers to act. When there’s no confusion in your CTA, there is a greater chance that you will mobilize the masses.

The key is to be focused, strategic and creative in producing your video.

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